While putting this site together, my son and I engaged in an argument about the ideal width of web pages.
Based upon the standard advice I give my web design students I argued for a 760 pixel width which, even with scroll bars, can easily be accommodated on an 800 by 600 pixel monitor.
He, on the other hand, argued for a wider design – somewhere in the neighborhood of 960 pixels. The advantages were obvious: we’d have additional design flexibility and be able to move to a three-column design. He also argued that people with small monitors just weren’t worth worrying about (he can be a bit judgmental).
The argument was brief and I won (it’s my site after all). Based upon other websites I monitor, I was expecting 5 to 10 percent of my audience to be using the smaller monitors and I wasn’t willing to alienate them. The result was the narrower, two-column design you’re looking at now.
The numbers are in
Now that we’ve been around for a month and had a few thousand visitors, I decided to check my Google Analytics stats and see if I’d made the right decision. It turns out the answer is an emphatic NO! Of our first 3,845 visitors only 26 (0.67 percent) had monitors narrower than 1024 pixels.
Where I went wrong
In retrospect, it appears I violated one of my own cardinal rules: consider your audience. I based my decision on numbers generated by websites targeted to a general audience. I didn’t consider that an audience of graphic design and web professionals would naturally tend to have larger (in many cases much larger) monitors.
One month isn’t a scientific sample and, as time goes by, I expect we will reach a wider audience and see the number of visitors using small monitors rise a bit. Still, the numbers are impressive enough that I’m already starting to look at a redesign. After all, if I can offer a better experience to 99 percent of our audience, perhaps the 0.67 percent of designers who won’t spring for a new monitor once a decade really aren’t worth worrying about.
So, son, if you’re reading, here it is: I was wrong and you were right.